It’s been a while since I’ve gotten into the behind-the-scenes of music creation with an artist, but I enjoyed putting this interview with Ashley Quinter together over the course of the past few weeks. I think you will all enjoy insightful moments about her writing process, how she selects instrumentals, her journey to get where she is today, and a few nuggets of advice for independent artists from a peer.
Read the Full Interview with Ashley Quinter
Hi, Ashley! Thank you so much for taking part in this interview. As you know, I am a fan of your work and am excited to interview you. For the folks who don’t know you yet, could you share a little about how you started your musical career?
I was pretty young, about 11 years old when I started writing. I remember writing poems, which turned into writing lyrics and later developed into putting all my pages into a binder or folder of sorts. I haven’t seen those pages in years. Going through life, interactions, and relationships were all a source of inspiration for me and still are to this day. I have all these stories inside of me bottled up, slowly floating their way to the top on any given day. It’s amazing.
Having started as a creative early in life, I imagine your inspirations are vast and diverse. Talk to us about your musical style and the artists and musicians who have influenced you on your journey.
I can’t begin this answer without mentioning Alicia Keys. I believe she imprinted the most on me as an artist growing up. I loved how imperfect and raw her voice felt. I gravitated toward it because my voice is similar in so many ways. My style is provocative, intimate, and honest. Over the years, Beyonce, Gaga, Solange, and James Blake have all been influences. I love how they are not afraid to try different things with their voices or new styles of music (somehow still managing it to be in their wheelhouse).
I met my now husband in Arizona, and we moved here to California to pursue a new life together. It wasn’t about music. I was in the restaurant and hotel industry, and so was he. We felt limited in Arizona. We felt held back and thought, “Let’s try California.” We had nothing to lose. I ended up in Arizona right after I graduated high school. My parents had already moved there and allowed me to finish my last year of high school in the area where I grew up. I lived with my girlfriend Karen and her family, and they took great care of me.
Fun Fact: When I was 14 years old, my dad tried to help me grow my career and entrusted our neighbor with a chunk of change to build this studio for me in his house. When my dad handed over the money, that guy took off and ran with it. Hi, Carlos. We know what you did!
That’s a perfect segue to my next question! In the music industry, one of the biggest challenges is knowing who to trust and have on your team. For you, as an independent artist, what do you find to be the most challenging aspect of your chosen path as a musician?
Money is the number one challenge. If you want to be great and get to the masses quickly it will be costly. I don’t care what anyone else says. I didn’t grow up in the industry. I didn’t get to start at age 12 and build decades of contacts. I am technically brand new and changing careers. The journey has been filled with highs and lows, but I am grateful to be here and present. I’ve invested in many pieces of the puzzle, and now I am just grinding, working on my records, and pitching records for briefs.
I know you have been working! Seeing your posts and shared on social media, I have noticed that you are an HRDRV artist. Can you share your experience with HRDRV and why you chose to work with the company?
HRDRV is a subscription-based record label for artists. They provide a la carte services on top of services included with your choice of subscription level. The company spoke to me, and quite frankly, in September 2020, they answered my prayers.
I’ll tell this story to anyone who asks. I was on my bed, in a dark moment, unhappy, crying, and praying for my Finneas O’Connell. I had just finished watching Billie Eilish’s documentary and was emotionally overwhelmed. Watching how she and her brother produced their magic together in that tiny bedroom changed my world.
I had given up on music and left it to the wind because it didn’t seem attainable. I was working towards a career, becoming a mother and a wife, and music seemed like a lucid dream I could never reach. Then there she was, Mickey Shiloh, on my Instagram feed. Not too long after that day, Mickey invited people to Zoom with her, record songs, and become partners with her in music. I hopped on the Mickey train ride, drank the juice, and showed up at the Zooms. I pitched lines, had conversations, and her baby, HRDRV, emerged. It was a no-brainer for me.
I joined in September 2020, which happens to be my birthday month. I decided to honor myself in that moment and in that year. I had dealt with so much trauma, burden, and unhappiness that the idea of making music consumed me, and my heart aches quickly turned into joy. I actually can’t tell this story without crying. Mickey and I have joked about this once. We had a conversation via Zoom, and she’s like, “Ashley, I think you always end up in tears at the end of our call.” I think it’s because I had neglected my greatest desires for so long, and I broke my heart. I feel actual physical pain in my chest when I talk about my past neglect of music and rejoining music after so many years. HRDRV made the transition super, and HRDRV is a major factor in why I have music out.
As creatives, we can sometimes have favorites or, conversely, criticize pieces of work that others love. What has been your favorite piece of music or project that you have created?
Honestly, every time I create something new, it becomes my new favorite. I love listening to everything I record, but most recently, I worked on a confidential brief for a TV show on Peacock TV. There is one specific song I got to topline called ‘What Would You Do,’ and it is some of my best work, hands down. It gives me chills, and my small circle of music friends has told me about it. I hope the song gets picked along with at least 1 or 2 other ones I pitched, especially ‘You’ll See,’ because that song is amazing too. I’ll be sure to keep you posted. I am currently in limbo, waiting on decisions.
Let’s talk about ‘Love Vampire,’ your most recent release. What is the story behind it, and what do you love about it?
‘Love Vampire’ describes a conflicted love (the listener can decide what the conflict is). One person is in great pain because of their love and the other, who inflicts the pain, seems to feed off of it or can’t help themselves, recreating painful experiences throughout the relationship. I think we can all relate to entertaining things that are not necessarily good for you, but superficially “it feels good.” Vampires suck your blood and, in this case, love vampires suck the life out of you. Have you ever been with the wrong person before? Well, I have, and that is what I describe in this song.
That’s definitely relatable. Being attracted to or pulled into something toxic is incredibly commonplace in 2022. I wonder if you’d be kind enough to let us in on your songwriting process and how that looks.
I often have melodies and lyrics flooding my head, so I either memo them or write them down. I then look to find a producer who can build around what I have done, I have only had this happen to me successfully less than five times, and I can count that on one hand.
That is how my debut single, ‘The Light,’ came to be. The rest of the time, I listen to instrumentals from various producers or on HRDRV’s beat library. I listen until I feel something. Once I feel something, I turn on the mic to capture the initial inspiration. Sometimes I can write a song like that in under 2 hours. Other times, I can write a song like that but will go through it over and over, making several revisions to lines, words, cadences, etc.
The biggest challenge for me when I started was trusting my comps, and now that I have gotten to a place where I trust that, mixing the records myself has opened a whole new can of worms. If I feel something is off, I will work on the record over time, often coming back to it to either reduce or add to it until I feel it’s mixed enough and ready to go.
Right now, I am just learning to add FX to my vocals, like the phone vocal or a reversed reverb. I am looking at things like automation and plugins like that doubler to get that extra full, finished radio sound. I usually have my homie Zack go through the final stages of mixing with me. He is the best. It’s very technical and something that can be learned but requires hours of mastery.
That’s awesome. I always find it interesting how artists’ processes differ from one another. In my adventures in surfing the web, I noticed that you offer songwriting as one of your services on your website. How do you feel about writing for others?
I used to not love the idea at first, but now I realized I’m selective with who I work. It is like dating. It has to be a fit for me, personality, sonically, etc. That is why I require consultations.
Do you ever get attached to songs or lyrics while working on a project and save them for yourself?
I get attached, but over time, the attachment loosens as I move on to the next one.
If you could collaborate with anyone, who would you work with and why?
There are so many people I’d love to collaborate with, but for some reason, James Blake is at the forefront in my head. I think he is an extraordinary musician. He could do things with my vocals that would blow my mind. He is top-tier, in my opinion.
Thank you so much, Ashley, for taking the time to do this interview with me. I am excited to feature you and share your story. What is one way your fans, followers, and supporters connect with you and support you as a musician?
My latest release, ‘Love Vampire,’ is amazing. It is also the first song I have mixed on my own, and I am super proud of my growth since I officially began the journey in 2020. The biggest and best thing any one person reading this can do is follow me on Spotify, check out my song, and become a listener!